Volvo launched the C70 with a USP: it was the world’s first four-seat premium convertible with a retractable steel roof. It’s a questionable claim. Is a Volvo that shares much of its underpinnings with a Ford Focus truly premium? Hmm. And, even if it was the first, it’s no longer the only. BMW’s 3-series convertible is a real alternative.
Why are we here then?
Because Volvo has launched a four-cylinder diesel version. The C70 was launched with upscale five-cylinder turbo, petrol and turbodiesel options. Now we have the 2.0D, its engine familiar from the Focus and Mondeo TDCi. Can it really cut it against a 320i CC that’s only three grand more?
Focus dynamics, Volvo style. Sounds good…
Should do. And it is. But it should be better. A £28k convertible doesn’t get off to a great start when the soundtrack sounds so budget - it’s telling that BMW doesn’t offer its 3-series with a folding roof and four-cylinder diesel engine.
There’s plenty of pull from Ford’s oil-burner though, so the C70 never feels less than brisk. It is also blessed with a sweetly mechanical-feeling six-speed gearbox, whose shift feels a little more precise than it does in the Focus (good though it already is there). At motorway speeds, the tin-top makes a good fist of sealing out wind noise and keeping you dry when it rains hard, so it ticks the coupe box admirably.
But at no point will you go and drive this Volvo purely for the sake of it. The steering is numb and overlight and takes away the joy of the otherwise nimble and poised chassis set-up, and the ride feels solidly Volvo-esque, comfy enough but lacking the fleet-footed Focus’s deftness.
Surely it’s all about posing, though?
You’d think so. The C70 is physically large, taking up more road space than a Merc C-class, but the lengthy tail upsets the stumpy-nosed proportions, as if the front and back belong to different cars. And maybe Volvo’s pushing it a bit with the C70 badge, when it’s so obviously a grafted S40.
Things get better inside though. The dash is lifted straight from the C30/S40/V50, and that’s fine because it’s attractively sculpted (especially the ‘floating’ centre console) and finished in materials that look and feel appropriate for the price. The doortrims are re-designed for the C70 and finished in much posher plastics than its siblings. The test car’s pale leather trim looked very classy indeed, and the wind-blocker did a magnificent job of keeping draughts out, while the heated seats did the biz on a very cold day. Sitting inside the C70 with the roof down can make you feel very sexy indeed. Shame about the engine note.
I’m genuinely confused by this car. It looks slightly odd and feels as if it’s punching beyond its weight. It costs £8k more than the most expensive version of the Ford Focus CC with which it shares so much, yet it’s less satisfying to drive.
Strong points? Decent finish, well-crafted roof and a gorgeous interior. You can buy the C70 with a warbling 2.4-litre five-cylinder petrol engine for £25,750 if you can live without the leather, in which case it offers something Focus CC buyers can’t have, and undercuts the four-cylinder 3-series by six grand. That’s the version of the C70 that makes sense.